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American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953-56 (Library of America #227)
Gary K. Wolfe, Frederik Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth, Theodore Sturgeon, Leigh Brackett, Richard Matheson

James Fenimore Cooper: The Leatherstocking Tales I; The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie (Library of America)

The Leatherstocking Tales, Vol. 1 - James Fenimore Cooper, Blake Nevius Cooper, have mercy. I give up. A quarter of the way through The Prairie, which is the last Leatherstocking novel left to read, I just can't take it any longer.

The Pioneers was interesting. The first appearance of Mr. Bumpo, he is actually a secondary character in an ensemble tale about an early western New York town. He just a strange white man who lives in the woods with his Indian friend and wins a holiday shooting contest. (There's always a shooting contest in these books) He doesn't become the Natty Bumpo we know and love until he saves the herione of the novel from a forest fire. A lot of our American Hero cliches seem to have been born in this book. Loner, wise-but-uneducated, reluctant to be a hero until the time is needed, rides off into the sunset at the end. (Literally. I'll give The Coop a pass on this one as he invented the cliche.)

The Last of the Mohicans is sort of hysterical in its wrongness. It's a nonstop adventure story, (nonstop in an early 19th century way)There are bad Indians and good Indians, an effete choirmaster used for comic relief, two maidens this time (one mixed-race) and another shooting contest. The best part is when Hawkeye (as he is called in this one) sneaks into a bad-Indian camp by dressing in a bear suit. So, these guys, who Cooper has constantly described as being so in tune with nature that they can tell a moose fart from a squirell's a hundred miles away, can't figure out that this bear is just a guy in a bear suit. And the bear suit actually gives Hawkeye Bear super-powers! He's able to wrestle the meanest, baddest Indian of all into submission while dressed as a bear. Anyway, I believe nothing about this historically or narratively, but it's still sort of entertaining.

The Prairie, I just can't handle. I sit down to read and suddenly everything else is a lot more interesting. It even made me check my Twitter feed for the first time in a year! There's something about a family on the prairie, and Bumpo is all old and looking back on his life. I know he dies at the end, and even the chance to see that doesn't make me want to move on. There's no reason I have to read all of these novels. So that's it, I'm done.

Well, maybe I'll skim through the rest and see if there's another shooting contest.